Dementia and Delirium, including Alzheimer’s
- Dementia is a group of symptoms that mainly affects memory, cognition and social interactions, and the ability to do everyday tasks. Symptoms start gradually often with no clear beginning, and are usually permanent.
- Delirium, on the other hand, typically begins suddenly with a noticeable start point. It mainly affects attention, and often resolves after a few days or weeks, although it can last longer.
Structure, function and brain damage in dementia
Symptoms of dementia and delirium
|Dementia: symptoms usually start gradually, are fairly constant on a day-to-day basis, and slowly and steadily become worse over the course of about a decade||Delirium: symptoms usually appear over a few hours to a few days, and may fluctuate on and off during the day, and often occurs at night.|
|Cognitive symptoms include:||Cognitive symptoms include:|
|Memory loss||Memory Loss|
|Difficulty speaking and communicating||Difficulty speaking and communicating|
|Difficulty with complex tasks||Rambling or nonsense speech|
|Difficulty planning and organizing||Difficulty reading and writing|
|Loss of coordination||Wandering attention|
|Becoming easily distracted|
|Psychological symptoms include:||Psychological symptoms include:|
|Personality changes||Inability to focus|
|Inability to reason||Inability to reason|
|Inappropriate behaviour||Reduced awareness of the environment|
|Fear, anxiety, anger or depression|
What causes dementia and delirium?
- Alzheimer’s symptoms usually start in your mid to late 60s, although a small proportion of people get early onset Alzheimer's, with symptoms starting in their 40s or 50s. This form of Alzheimer’s has a strong genetic link and typically runs in families.
- Vascular dementia is rare if you are under 65, but usually starts more suddenly than Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis may be complicated by the fact that you have Alzheimer’s or another dementia at the same time. People at risk for vascular dementia often have a history of smoking, cardiac dysrhythmia, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
- Lewy body dementia: Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that build up in neurons causing brain signalling malfunctions; they are often found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (primarily a movement disorder). Lewy body dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s, but can be distinguished by unique symptoms such as rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder, and fluctuations between confusion and clarity.
- Frontotemporal dementia often has an earlier onset than Alzheimer’s, generally in your 50s or early 60s. The brain damage occurs at the front of your brain in regions that control personality, behaviour, and language.